Spring 2010How Habitat Conservationists Can Help The Nevada WildernessCraft the Renewable Energy Future Project is a catalyst forAs the Obama Administration pursues a new energy future on Western public lands, wildlife habitat conservation,there’s a vigorous debate going on about the value of utility-scale projects on public wilderness preservation, andlands. Public lands energy projects—lots of them in short order—are critical to stemwhat soon will be irreversible damage from climate change. This irreversible damage, smart developmentproponents say, will be far worse for the species and habitats of Nevada’s deserts than will of renewable energy.the effects of the development footprint. www.wildnevada.orgOpponents say we shouldn’t sacrifice the desert for a haphazard approach to energydevelopment. The “land rush” caused by thousands of new renewable energy develop-ment permit requests creates a false sense of solving the problem; sacrificing biodiversityto solve a puzzle without all the pieces on the table makes no sense.As the Quakers like to say, “everyone owns a piece of the truth.”At NWP, we recognize that millions of acres of public land could be developed for renew-able energy tomorrow without making a dent in climate change if there isn’t a muchbroader, all-encompassing strategy to deal with climate change. This includes addressingmassive changes in efficiency standards and our consumption patterns. Without an “allhands on deck” approach, public lands will be sacrificed for a hodge-podge solution to aproblem that requires bigger thinking.We also know this: Because of cost certainty and the need for short term (<10 years) prog-ress in the face of climate change, public lands that people care about are going to bedeveloped with solar, wind and geothermal plants. There’s a tendency in the conservationcommunity to use legitimate concerns about these projects as excuses for inaction. If wedon’t have all the information about a project’s technology and impact on the land, howcan we make judgments about it? At NWP, we’re as susceptible to this thinking as anyoneelse. And this recognition has helped us understand that as public lands’ conservationleaders, we have a responsibility to devise solutions.That’s why we’re engaging developers and other stakeholders to identify opportunitiesfor “smart from the start” energy projects that provide additional land protections aswell as money for habitat restoration and land acquisition. Not every project will fit the Rock art in Nye County.“smart from the start” criteria. Some will be what we’ve fondly taken to calling just plain Photo by Tyler Roemerdumb from the get-go.But we hope to have enough success so that administrative and legislative opportuni-ties become apparent when there is a strong mutual desire between conservationists andindustry to collaborate on smart development. We’ve been clamoring for a new energyfuture for 40 years. That future is here, the door is open, and we’re barrelin’ through.Inside, you’ll read about how we’re engaging renewable energy projects in Nevada onpublic lands through this “smart from the start” lens. A particular focus for us will be east-ern Nevada’s SWIP transmission line, called the backbone of Nevada’s renewable energyfuture by one of its architects, Senator Harry Reid. And we highlight the work and world-view of one of our favorite Nevada conservation legends, Terri Robertson. Thanks for help-ing make it all possible, and feel free to write or call us.John Wallin, Wilson’s warblers winter in the tropics andDirector, Nevada Wilderness Project migrate to Nevada--and well beyond--to breed. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlifejohn.firstname.lastname@example.org
The ChallengePick up a newspaper, read a blog or tune in it the landscape damage, erosion and trashto a news program and barely 10 minutes that comes with pioneered roads.seems to pass before the focus shifts to a The SWIP transmission line will also carrynew renewable energy project coming to the very kind of “clean” energy we haveNevada. This is exciting—and daunting. been clamoring for—energy generated byExciting because of the variety of projects solar, wind, biomass and geothermal facili-being discussed and their economic and ties. It represents, Harry Reid said at a newsenvironmental promise. Daunting because conference in January, “the beginning of aof the immense complexity of who, what, great new wave of power generation in ourwhere, when and how to build them. country[…”] Reid said, “This is something aBack in the 80s, for example, private indus- lot of people have only dreamed about. Wetry and government began forging plans hear about a smart grid, we hear about ato build a power transmission line to move super-highway to transmit electricity. Thisenergy from the upper Midwest across is it. To have renewable energy created,Idaho, south through Nevada to Las Vegas and to have a place it can go and move,and points beyond. Called the Southwest that’s what we’re doing here.” (Las VegasIntertie Project—or SWIP line—it will Review-Journal, Jan. 12, 2010)extend approximately 500 miles across How can we reap the economic, environ-Idaho and Nevada, much of it through miles mental and national security benefits ofof natural landscapes and wildlife habitat. these large-scale renewable energy andWe know the transmission line will spell transmission projects without destroyingthe demise of some breeding grounds for the natural beauty of our public lands?sage grouse and disrupt travel corridors for What is the point of stemming climatelarge mammals such as deer and bighorn change with clean energy development ifsheep. The line’s own maintenance roads we create more damage to wildlife habitatswill invite off-road vehicle use into previ- in the process?ously untrammeled areas—and bring withSolar One, a pilot solar-thermal project in the Mojave just east of Barstow, CA (below), is similar toprojects being proposed for construction in Nevada. Construction of the SWIP transmission line willbegin before the end of the year. (Photo by Jim Boone, birdandhike.com; map by Kristie Connolly).
u t i on s nomy . . .theres a great opportunity for business and Sol Eco environmental interests to come together over renewable energy. Its a natural partnership, linked by a common goal of attacking climate change. [The Nevada Wilderness Project]...is right that “smart from the start" is the key to the future economy.” (Las Vegas Review Journal columnist Geo Schumacher) Inn va s ip o tive Gre “Our new, responsible energy policy recognizes the Partnersh en Jobs relationship between energy, the environment, and our economy. The growth of clean energy can lead to the growth of our economy.” (President Obama, announcing a $3.4 billion investment of stimulus funds to modernize the electric grid.) a te Change life Habitat im ild “Preserving our natural resources has become a passion Cl W that was instilled in me by my father and my grand- father ...we realize that across North America, people are becoming more aware of the need for protecting and preserving habitat and wildlife resources.” (NASCAR great Ward Burton) ot au Be N “Projected climate change poses a serious threat to To tifu s America’s national security. The predicted e ects o La t e To Act l Landscape include drought, ooding, sea level rise, retreating glaciers, habitat shifts, and the increased spread of life-threatening diseases. These conditions have the potential to disrupt our way of life and to force changes in the way we keep ourselves safe and secure.” (Report on National Security and the Threat of Climate Change, al Security CNA Military Advisory Board, April 2007) ion at N “Unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, experts say global climate change will have a devastating impact. . . But with this challenge comes incredible opportunity – to create jobs, renew communities, and reduce the harmful emissions that er En a ect our health and the health of our environment. gy e (Clinton Climate Initiative) Ind ependencNWP’s “No hand-wringing” ApproachWe think this graphic—made with the help of our friends at mesh- • The scope and number of proposed renewable energy projectscreative.com—gets to the essence of how we view the develop- across the West strains our capacity to engage. For example, asment of renewable energy on public lands. of December 2009, Nevada alone had 88 wind and solar permitWe searched for an approach that is pragmatic and solution-ori- applications covering 575,010 acres. Adding geothermal, theented, and it began with these observations: total comes to 189 permit applications covering 969,774 acres.• The climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis are linked. Solv- • While only a fraction of this acreage is likely to be developed, it is clear that impacts from this energy transformation are inevi- ing one should not exacerbate the other. Our approach rec- table and that some proposed locations for renewable energy ognizes that to gain the benefits of renewable energy, there is are better than others, and some are simply inappropriate. no way around the fact that renewable energy generation and transmission will negatively impact some lands that people • This is a new and difficult framework for the environmental care deeply about. community because it acknowledges that there inevitably will be some land-disturbing activities necessary to achieve• Nevada is being transformed by renewable energy develop- the greater-good benefits associated with renewable energy ment. This includes expansion of transmission infrastructure as development. a means of bringing large-scale renewables projects to market.• While conservationists applaud the shift to renewable energy, • The Nevada Wilderness Project sees an immediate opportu- nity to proactively engage in “smart from the start” develop- the potential for such rapid growth has led to legitimate calls ment of the West’s renewable energy resources. for caution.
We See a Once-in-a-100-year OpportunityIf we apply our “smart from the start” concept to the SWIP trans-mission line, for example, we see several opportunities emerge. A. Site the SWIP line and other renewable projects in places that will have the least negative impacts on the land and wildlife. With our habitat expertise we can provide solutions to some of the problems of energy development. For example, we’re engaged in work with conservation partners such as the Idaho Conservation League, the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the company building the SWIP line to share information and identify opportunities to avoid key sage grouse habitats. We are also working toward early problem identification and miti- gation opportunities for feeder projects that will eventually populate the SWIP corridor. B. As part of the SWIP and other renewable energy project devel- opment, pass legislation that protects other public lands in our state as Wilderness and National Conservation Area. In some cases, there may be opportunities to gain legal des- ignations for some of Nevada’s very best habitat—protection that can outweigh the losses due to development. C. Companies pay a conservation royalty or a financial off-set on their development projects. In addition to the SWIP transmission line itself, energy compa- nies have proposed building large-scale solar plants along the line. This is a logical and reasonable course of action. NWP will pursue formation of a leasing or royalty structure where the money paid by the energy companies will be used for regional conservation projects that sportsmen, ranchers and conserva- tionists in Nevada agree on—not put that money back into the general treasury. These projects will range from restoring habitat in other locations, purchasing private land from will- ing sellers that protect wildlife corridors, to funding research through NDOW or the University of Nevada.We invite you to be involved in this ”smart from the start” process.Please read our website, www.wildnevada.org, and feel free to callus with your suggestions or questions. As these projects begin tounfold, we will be calling on you for your support and participation. Spring comes early to the Mojave (left), also home to many fish species found nowhere else in the world, such as this Ash Meadows pupfish. (Photos by Mackenzie Banta and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service). Near the Jarbidge Wilderness in northern Nevada, one-year-old Ginnie and some spring flowers brighten the landscape. (photo by Kristie Connolly)
Terri Takes on Gold Butte Terri Roberston, Friends of Gold Butte. Photo by Antioco Carrillo When Terri Robertson was born in 1944, her hometown of Las Vegas had a population of 9,000. Driving to Red Rock Canyon seemed to take hours, but it was one of her family’s favorite destinations. Her dad took her to this remote place frequently as a child and, soon enough, he and Terri were working togetherto protect Red Rock Canyon from development. Lucky for Neva-dans (and the whole world), they were successful back in 1970.Terri and her fellow Red Rock activists just celebrated a 40-yearreunion, but she is far from done. Gold Butte, often referred to as“Nevada’s piece of the Grand Canyon puzzle,” is next on her list ofbeloved wild places she intends to help protect. Q: You had a 31-year career with the public schools in Las Vegas and retired last year. What made you decide to take on this brand new job with NWP’s sister organization Friends of Gold Butte? While I had 31 years with the school district, my environmental There is an old saying: you only lose if you give up. The moun- work began in my late 20s. So I have worked many more years tain ranges and desert valleys and washes that I have worked preserving Nevada history and wildlands than I dedicated to the to save are an important part of my life. They are--each of district. This position offered me the opportunity to become them--rooms in my earthly home. Family memories abound part of a great family of people dedicated to and working in each one, and the thought of having these places lost has toward my goal of the Gold Butte NCA with Wilderness. Nancy kept me going. Hall [Friends’ of Gold Butte’s President] and I have been working side by side for many years and now she “be” my boss. I am lucky to have children and grandchildren who have all been at my side in one way or another all these years. Whether Q: A big part of your job is taking groups out to see Gold it has been helping with petitions, making copies, sealing Butte - many of them for the first time. Why do you think this envelopes and licking stamps (all things done in the old days), is important? to the technical experience of grandchildren who assist me at I always say, “Gold Butte speaks for herself.” You can talk all the computer today, they have spent a lot of time at my side you want and show all of the greatest pictures in the world, saving “Grandma’s Special Places.” but seeing Gold Butte up close and personal is truly what Q: We’re working to see Gold Butte protected as a National binds people to our mission. When their feet hit the ground, Conservation Area and Wilderness. What do you say to people and the view through their own eyes sets their hearts and who think a Wilderness designation is the government trying souls in motion, then and only then can they truly commence to “fence out the public” - a common argument we hear? their love affair with Gold Butte. I think it is important to get the true message out, and of Q: You know from your experience working to protect Red course, the truth is that wilderness does not “lock” the pub- Rock Canyon and Sloan Canyon, too, that campaigning for lic out nor is wilderness surrounded by fences. I like to ask Wilderness and National Conservation Area can be a long, people... if they go to Red Rock, does the wilderness up there slow and involved process. What keeps you motivated? bother them? If they go to Mt. Charleston, does the wilder- ness bother them there? I then ask if they have ever seen fences around large areas with signs that say “Wilderness - stay out?” Of course not! After this beginning to a conversation, I’m usually able to convey the real message about wilderness. That it’s a place where hunters can hunt, horseback riders can ride, campers can camp. And how wilderness is needed to provide “forever homes” for our nature neighbors and to preserve for all humankind areas for solitude and peace, to mend ourselves and fill our souls. Learn more about Gold Butte on our website, www.wildnevada.org/for-gold-butte.html and please visit the Friends of Gold Butte Mule deer at sunset. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife blog: www.friendsofgoldbutte.blogspot.com
Welcome to fabulous WILDERNESS Nevada Out of coffee? – Don’t stress! You can order some from GroundsWe have great NWP t-shirts (organic cotton & fabulous for Change, a family-owned coffee-roasting business, specializingdesigns!) on sale on our website, priced at just $15 to make in 100% Fair Trade, organic, delicious coffee. Plus, they’ll donatesure they reach the backs of 15% of the sale to the Nevadawilderness fans far and wide. Wilderness Project if you place orders from NWP’s website. So goYou can see more t-shirt photos to www.wildnevada.org and clickon www.wildnevada.org. Click the “Join Us” tab, then go to “Funthe “Join Us” tab and scroll down. Things for Sale.” Curious about Nevada’s “fast-track” renewable Find us in the digital soup: energy projects? www.wildnevada.org www.facebook.com/NevadaWildernessProject Visit our website, www.wildne- http://twitter.com/wildnevada vada.org, and click on the tab http://www.youtube.com/user/nevadawilderness labelled “Fast-Track.” You’ll find loads of information about each Or real humans:project (type of energy, size, developer, location), detailed maps, 8550 White Fir Street, Reno, NV 89523a google earth fly-over tour of the projects, news articles, photos Ph: 775-746-7851and more. We’ll be up-dating this section regularly as new infor-mation becomes available. Tel: 775.746.7851 Reno, NV 89523 8550 White Fir Street www.wildnevada.org NEVADA WILDERNESS PROJECT Contact Us